BLOOMINGTON - More than 150 former students, parents and faculty of Heyworth High School gathered Saturday night to honor longtime Heyworth educator Connie Link.
Link retired this year after 35 years in the district. She taught language arts, coached the forensics team and directed musicals at the school and at Maxwell Park in Normal as part of its summer theater program.
Link is battling health problems but continues to coach speech at the high school.
The event, held at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Bloomington, was a chance to recognize Link for her years of dedication to the speech and drama programs, and an opportunity for alumni of Heyworth's speech program to reunite and share stories.
Tom Wells, an assistant speech coach at the high school, and Michael Rediger, an alumnus of the speech team, shared an experience they had while attending the National Forensic League's national tournament in Oklahoma City.
Apparently, Rediger made a gesture that offended one of the locals. "Mike told the guy he was No. 1," said Wells.
The end result was a shattered windshield after the man bounced a full can of beer off it.
"I told Mike to never, ever do anything like that again," Wells recounted.
Rediger, who is now a lawyer in the Chicago area, said Link's guidance in forensics prepared him well for a law career.
"I'm in court against guys who graduated from large schools and went to Harvard or Yale, trying to convince a jury that my argument is the better one," Rediger said. "Not bad for a guy from a small school like Heyworth."
Assistant speech coach Greg Sutter, also a former student of Link's, recalled some of her sacrifices.
"In the years when (a tournament) was in Bloomington-Normal, she'd open up her house for all the students," Sutter said. "I don't think many other coaches would've even considered it.
"She gave part of herself, and we're better people because of it."
Raise scholarship funds
The reunion also kicked off fund-raising to establish the Connie Link Speech and Drama Scholarship, which will be awarded annually to a Heyworth senior.
Spokeswoman Marlene Randall said nearly $3,000 has been collected toward the scholarship fund, about a third of the goal. Randall said a parents' group will continue soliciting donations from friends, family and former students and will probably wrap up their efforts at the school's spring musical.